Provos launched campaign against this paper for exposing criminality
Sinn Fein went to great lengths to discredit reports about fuel laundering and how it poisoned drinking water
From January this year Independent News and Media devoted considerable time and effort to the exposure of the environmental disaster created by fuel laundering in the Border areas of north Louth and Monaghan and south Armagh.
Thousands of tons of the toxic waste were created by the process of using acids and dye-removers to 'wash' agricultural diesel and re-sell it as road diesel in recent years with no concerted action by agencies of either State to stop it. The process is taking place openly. It is also, according to police and republican sources under the continued and complete control of the Provisional IRA.
The ownership of the illicit trade was not the main focus of the reporting that appeared in the Sunday Independent over a period of about two months at the start of this year. It was Sinn Fein who began the attacks on this newspaper over the naming of the IRA.
Gerry Adams and other party representatives repeatedly issued statements attacking the Sunday Independent after we published results from samples of water taken from a tributary of the Fane River system, which provides drinking water for more than 40,000 people in the Northeast.
The Sunday Independent specifically made no attempt to link Sinn Fein in any way to the pollution crisis in the Fane system. Our main concern was the fact that tons of highly dangerous, cancer-causing chemicals are being pumped into the drinking water system.
The samples taken from near one of the diesel plants on the Fane system were sent to City Analysts in Dublin who confirmed that the water was 'extremely' polluted and 8,000 times higher than the pollution levels set by the European Union.
This caused a debate in Louth Council which adopted a motion condemning the IRA for their involvement in 'environmental terrorism'. This prompted the initial Sinn Fein response. They tabled an amendment in which the mention of the 'IRA' was removed from the primary motion but this was defeated.
Sinn Fein then went on the attack accusing the Sunday Independent of attempting to smear 'republicans' by linking them to diesel laundering. They also accused the paper of manufacturing evidence, ignoring the findings from the scientific analysis of the samples.
The pollution problem was at the core of this paper's reporting throughout and it was the government agencies' almost complete failure to deal with the issue that was at the centre of our reportage. The Environmental Protection Agency refused to disclose its test results from water samples taken from the same location which we had tested. The Agency refused to release its findings despite direct queries to its press office and via Freedom of Information requests.
This was and is the matter of prime significance. The waste contains polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which have been shown in tests around the world to be linked to foetal abnormality and death, cancers and other degenerative illnesses. It is the very last substance that should be allowed ingress into a drinking water supply.
In fact, I embarked on this story and collected the samples under the noses of the diesel launderers after speaking to a relative of a pregnant woman in south Armagh over Christmas. This woman said the Provo diesel launderers were killing unborn children. Not one person was prepared to speak publicly, however, such is the climate of terror that exists in south Armagh under the IRA.
The cancerous poisons are still being pumped directly into the water supply and most dangerously into Lough Ross, the main drinking water supply for Crossmaglen in south Armagh. The drinking water for Dundalk is taken from the Cavan Hill extraction plant about 10 miles further down the Fane River and samples taken from there show that the toxicity has reduced sufficiently to meet drinking water standards - or mostly. We also discovered that the Cavan Hill plant had to be closed last November after a major spillage of toxic waste not far upstream.
Sinn Fein's justice spokesman, Padraig MacLochlainn wrote to the Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan on February 1, apparently citing my reports on the pollution being caused by the IRA diesel launderers.
On February 19 , the Commissioner responded in a letter signed by her personal assistant, Superintendent Frank Walsh. The letter to MacLochlainn stated: "I am directed by the Commissioner to refer to your emaiI correspondence dated February 1, 2015. An Garda Siochana hold no information or intelligence to support the assertion of Mr Cusack that 'the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure and confines its criminal activities to fuel laundering, cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting'".
Sinn Fein immediately published the letter and forwarded it to all its elected representatives as 'proof' that I was effectively lying about the IRA - and by extension the terrible pollution being caused.
The Commissioner's letter was a surprise not simply because it appeared to provide comfort to Sinn Fein but also because it seemed an unwarranted and personal intrusion into a story which, up to that point, had not concerned the Garda at all.
The Commissioner's letter, in fact, deflected attention away from the core issue of the pollution which was and remains the key issue here, in our opinion. It only became an issue in the past two week after the Commissioner's counterpart in the PSNI flatly contradicted it.
The issue of the danger to human life from the pollution remains ignored by both States, by the State broadcaster and a large section of the Irish media, outside Independent News and Media, who made no effort to go up and test the waters of south Armagh and ask who is responsible for poisoning them.
And, this is the immediate crucial issue in human terms that goes beyond what ramifications there are for the Northern Assembly in the fallout from the crisis precipitated by the IRA's assassination of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast.
The toxic waste that both States have stood by and let be pumped into the Fane System is an environmental time bomb. The effects of PAH on long term human health are of very great significance and the effects on unborn children are of even greater significance.
I personally found it appalling that an attempt to prove and underscore this issue with actual evidence was, firstly, turned into a political circus by Sinn Fein and then effectively dismissed when the Garda Commissioner's letter to the Party was used by it as a method to downplay and undermine the critical issue that the Sunday Independent and INM brought to public attention. Sinn Fein, desperate to defend the reputation of its heroes in the IRA, has done a remarkable disservice to its own voters.
Its own people in south Armagh and Louth are being made to drink the toxic effluence its associates in the IRA are pumping day in day out into the Fane and its tributaries. I went into this story at the behest of my editor to expose what we believe to be the worst environmental crime being committed on this island.
Assertions that the IRA is not involved in 'terrorism' are patently, absolutely wrong. They are still terrorising their own community.
A litany of brutal deaths linked to an 'on-ceasfire' PIRA
The Provisional IRA has been linked to at least 45 violent deaths since its 'ceasefire' began in the mid-1990s. In almost every case, the victims were killed for reasons where they were deemed to have 'disrespected' the Provos or refused to pay 'protection' money.
The PSNI and Garda investigations were, in many instances, hampered by widespread, organised intimidation of witnesses up to and including attempts to murder witnesses.
A small number of convictions for lesser offences were obtained but only one Provo, Bernard Dempsey (57), from Dublin, was ever convicted of murder.
He was convicted of murdering James Curran after an investigation led by one of the Garda's top crime fighters, Detective Superintendent PJ Browne, who died last year.
In the case of one victim there is a charge outstanding.
The figure of 45 also does not include the killing of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe, as he was shot dead by the Provisional IRA during a robbery in Adare, Co Limerick in the summer of 1996 at a time when the IRA's 'ceasefire' was suspended and it was officially back at 'war'.